Thursday, December 30, 2010

Blue Valentine is not an appropriate date movie.

Note: I wrote this a few days ago, then fell asleep halfway through, then went camping for NYE. Soz.

I just went to see Blue Valentine. It was truly amazing. So many types of amazing, in fact, I worry that in my somewhat tired and sleep-deprived state, I won't do the film the justice it deserves.

With regard to context, I had been on the verge of asking a particularly attractive and interesting boy that I've been hanging out with somewhat frequently if he would like to see it. With me.
Good thing I didn't.
It really isn't a date movie. By any stretch of the imagination. I mean, I may have gone to see this with a previous boyfriend of mine, but that's only because we were both film nerds of the massive variety and that's the sort of thing we'd watch at any time of day or night. Be that as it may, this particular boy is not Mitts. Nor is he a cinephile who (I assume, anyway) enjoys watching incredibly emotionally draining arthouse films on dates. Films that include, amongst other things, rather intense sex scenes, abortion, divorce, and many, many arguments.

So. It's a good thing I went with Brian. While our friendship often steps (read: stomps) over the line of decency, I can't say any time spent in the company of only each other could ever be seen as a "date". And let it be said right now, that after watching Blue Valentine, I am rather put off having A Relationship (at least for a little while).

The specs: directed by Derek Cianfrance, starring Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams. In a nutshell? We spend two hours watching a couple's marriage fall apart, while flashing back to the joyous moment that they met and fell madly in love.

This film is utterly, completely heartbreaking. That's the first thing I'll say about it. Watching a relationship break down can't really ever be described as enjoyable, and while I loved the film, it wasn't exactly easy viewing. The performances are brave, honest, and for the film's two hour running time I felt like a sneaky voyeur peeking into somewhere that I shouldn't really be peeking into. That though, is probably the sign of incredible performances from the two leads, and great direction from Cianfrance.

The film opens with Cindy (Williams) and Dean (Gosling) at home with their young daughter, Frankie. He paints houses, she's a nurse. He is never without a beer and cigarette in hand, she doesn't ever seem to smile. Their life seems terribly mundane, and it's obvious that the bright spark of young love faded long ago. The still-young but tired-looking couple can't have a conversation without fighting. Filmed in close ups (with a Red camera), with muted colours, it really is like eavesdropping on their private moments and observing something breaking in slow motion with painful detail.

Contrasting those scenes in wider, somewhat more vibrantly coloured shots (Super 16mm) is the courtship of Dean, who just took a job at a moving company, and Cindy, a college student with a douche-bag boyfriend. She wants to go to medical school and wonders how you know you're in love, he wants to fall in love with a girl completely and utterly, forever. They meet, and marry in a slightly whirlwind romance. Gosling is all confident, brash physicality, Williams is more reserved, enigmatic. They're a great pair onscreen, mesmerising for the two hours that they inhabit the screen.

You know? Brian and I left the cinema in somewhat stunned silence (first words uttered, "Shit, son!") and I admitted that I had cried. I was lying though. I didn't cry just the once. I cried two, three, four times.

I guess I mentioned earlier that the film is emotional, heartbreaking. I have to then add, that Blue Valentine doesn't punch the audience in the face with sentimentality or ham-fisted emotion. The film refuses to tell us perhaps just as much as it does choose to divulge. What happened in the six years in between beginning and the end of the relationship? Who's more to blame? Does it really matter?

Anyway. It was great. One of the best films of 2010, probably an Oscar contender, definitely one of my personal picks of the best of a year that had some pretty gosh-darn fucking good films in it.

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